Warmer winter weather in 2018

By Hailey Hill
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Map of the United States showing warming conditions. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual winter outlook report in October, revealing predictions for warmer-than-average winter weather. This prediction is based upon the presence of a La Niña weather pattern, which typically correlates with warmer, drier conditions.

“Two-thirds of the continental US will likely experience warmer than normal conditions,” according to the report. Areas on the East Coast, which typically have more severe winter weather, have a 33-40 percent chance of experiencing above-average temperatures.

This does not mean that winter weather will cease all together; the Northern Plains region and the Northwest are in fact predicted to have below-normal winter temperatures and increased participation. On the East Coast, winter storms are still likely to occur, only with potentially less frequency.

Despite the prediction of a La Niña winter, it is unlikely that this winter will have record-setting temperatures as were seen in the previous two winters. Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, claims that “it would be quite surprising to see a third very warm winter in a row.” With the increasing effects of climate change, however, it would not be completely unprecedented to see more record-breaking warm temperatures.

What does this report mean for our local climate? According to the report, much of California has a chance of seeing warmer than average temperatures and about the same amount of precipitation. In the Monterey area, a mild, not-so-stormy winter can be expected.

Low amounts of rainfall can be a threat to California water levels because of the drought conditions already prevalent in much of the state. If the predictions in the report are correct, southern California may see even lower amounts of rain than usual, which is a concern since southern California is one of the most populous areas of the state as well as being one of the most drought-stricken areas.

It is important to note that this report consists merely of educated predictions, and only time will tell what this winter will bring. La Niña has about a 55-65 percent chance of fully forming, making these predictions likely, but by no means guaranteed.

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